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In order to keep down comments about people's accept rates, accept rates are no longer displayed. However, that leads to a question: what is the incentive to accept answers now? Are we in a situation where there is no real incentive to accept answers?

Yes, you get +2 uncapped rep. But that's hardly a big incentive, is it? Without an incentive, why exactly should a user accept anything?

For the plurality of questions, the highest voted answer is the one that gets accepted. Sometimes this is because it is the accepted answer (people see it first and vote it up), and sometimes not. But in any case, my point is this: for the person asking the question, what benefit is there to accepting any particular answer?

If a user accepts an answer, then the question instantly becomes less popular. It's an immediate signal that the issue is closed to the satisfaction of the person asking the question. Obviously people can (and sometimes do) come along to provide useful answers to questions that have accepted answers. But by and large, if you're patroling SO for questions to answer, you don't look for questions with accepted answers.

This is good for the people who answer questions, as they don't waste time reading something that probably has a satisfactory answer. But at the same time, it's bad for the person asking the question. The question gets less views and fewer answers. If someone sees an question with 2 unaccepted answers, they might decide to take a look at it to see if there's something those two guys missed.

Given this, why would someone accept an answer on their questions? There's no real reason to do so, as it greatly decreases through traffic on the question.

Accepting answers is a very good thing for the site. People who choose not accept answers universally are subverting the whole point of the accept system. They benefit their questions to the detriment of the site as a whole.

If you think this is a phantasmal issue, consider this guy, who unaccepted every answer on his questions recently. This was seen by some as "rage unaccepting", but his answer seems to suggest that he simply doesn't want to accept answers, period. That he'll just upvote whatever he likes and that'll be the end of it. That he wants all his questions to be unaccepted, which is why he unaccepted even his own answers that he accepted.

So there is evidence of at least one person subverting the system.

If we want answers to be accepted, I think we need some kind of incentive. And the +2 rep isn't doing it. Noisy though the visible accept rate was, it did at least prevent this. Some have suggested a "citizenship level" that measures various features. This seems like a solution so long as it is publicly visible without having to go to someone's profile.

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So would you suggest that we have some sort of visible metric that indicates a users answer accepting behavior so that social pressures will provide an incentive for users to accept answers? –  murgatroid99 Feb 3 '13 at 23:27
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Why can't we just ignore this and move on? You have given a single example but I don't think the SE community will be harmed that much from a couple lone rebels. –  Doorknob 冰 Feb 3 '13 at 23:30
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Because we have OCD and seeing an un-accepted question in our "Asked" list will drive us insane –  Mark Henderson Feb 4 '13 at 1:37
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I never really considered the accept rate to be an "incentive" for accepting. If you did, you were looking at it wrong, so it's a good thing it's gone now. –  animuson Feb 4 '13 at 2:15
    
possible duplicate of Replace accept rate with citizenship level –  gnat Apr 8 at 14:19

5 Answers 5

What is the incentive to upvote?

  • to thank the person who helped you
  • to leave signposts for others about which answers are good

Both of these can be done even if it didn't occur to you to ask the question. But as a reward for asking, you not only get rep on the question, you get a double dose of these incentives in the form of accepting.

I don't ask many questions but if it's at all possible to accept, I will. And that's why.

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If a user accepts an answer, then the question instantly becomes less popular.

It will instantly attract less new answers. But that acceptance is still a valuable indicator to future readers of the question, and the accepted answer in most cases will gather more up votes than the other answers.

Just because the acceptance rate isn't published doesn't mean it isn't there and cannot be used by system as part of its automated functions.

The user mentioned as an example seems to be an oddball, there is nothing you can do about that, they will arrive at the gates in all forms no matter how much you try and stop them. Changing a well established function of the site just to accommodate these people is a total waste of time - possibly the only action that should be taken for serial non-accepters is to assign ownership of their questions to Community so that they don't get any reputation gain from them (not that many of them accumulate much rep anyway).

Should we have an incentive to accept?

The negative incentive didn't really work (where the accept rate was published and others would pester the OP via the comments). But what makes you think that a positive incentive would work, especially as most positive incentives are a target for gaming? Personally I think serial non-accepters should be tracked either via a review queue where their questions get a little extra "attention" from the community, or be one of the factors used to identify users for temporary question bans.

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As someone who frequently finds Stack Exchange answers via Google, this is a huge issue for me personally (and I suspect anyone else who regularly is finding Stack Exchange threads for questions).

My workflow is:

  1. Check thread and see if question is same (via error message, etc)
  2. Check answers.
  3. Immediately check accepted answer (if any)

If there is no accepted answer, one of two primary things happened:

  • User asking question went MIA or didn't accept
  • No one answered the actual question (regardless of upvotes on answers)

Now, this would not be a problem if all 'non-answers' which are still valid didn't get upvoted frequently (or even sometimes accepted...). I don't like trying to figure out which of those two scenarios is the case as it is not a whole ton different than parsing a forum/email thread because normally you have to read comments to figure out what is going on, etc.

The example of this which is most frustrating for me is here. The accepted (and highest voted) answer didn't contain the actual answer for several years until it was edited.

I like Stack Exchange because it minimizes the steps from "error to resolution" by removing the parsing of forum threads, parsing of multiple answers, reading tons of text, and puts the ANSWER immediately when I find a matching question.

Answers showing as "accepted" is a huge part of that.


My point is that I emphatically believe YES there should be incentive for accepting answers.

The point of a Q/A site is to be, well, a question answer site.

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So if there is not a good answer to a question do we want people to actually accept an answer even if it is not a good or right answer? –  Chad Apr 8 at 14:46

Plenty of answers were accepted before we ever had an accept rate display. Plenty will be accepted without it. These sites work because people come to them with goodwill. You can't trade rep for rice. The incentives are all for fun.

Plenty of wrong answers were accepted, for that matter. A stated goal of these sites is to build a reference for all time. When someone finds a question via google, what answer should they be directed to? The answer checked by the perhaps confused OP, or the answer voted-up by the entire crowd?

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So rather than put up with the status quo, we should do something to get wrong answers unmarked. Why tolerate wrongness and mediocrity? There should be no compulsion to accept any particular answer, but the answer selected should be right, or at least the most helpful for the stated question. Accepted answers only become a useless metric when you decide to give up on them. You seem to be advocating that they no longer (or never did) function in a useful way? –  slugster Feb 4 '13 at 1:40
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The management has stated, again and again, that they will not do this (give anyone other than the OP input on the green check). So, as a result, I take the position that the green check is a mixed blessing at best. –  Rosinante Feb 4 '13 at 18:14

I think that there is already a good system in place that can easily be adapted to solve this issue: bounty.

On bountied issues, if the person offering the bounty fails to award the bounty within a rather generous period, it will get automatically allocated to the person with the most non-negative votes. There is even a grace period to let the person change the automated decision, if they disagree with it and finally come back to the question. Why not do something similar?

If you do this, I think there should be a way to subvert the procedure - mark the question explicitly as having no solution that you find acceptable, during a similar grace period. I suspect most of the people not marking questions do so out of disinterest or forgetfulness, rather than an active malice or desire to have the question left unanswered, but I think it is an option that should be exposed nonetheless.

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